With the assistance of a waiter, he ushered them to a table almost hidden by a pillar, where a crimson-shaded light sent a soft glow that was guaranteed to make the most of a woman’s eyes. Monsieur Beauchamp with his own hands brought them the menu card, while the waiter stood expectantly, crouched for an immediate start as soon as he received the signal. A small waitress appeared with the butter and rolls, and made her way underneath the arms of the proprietor and the waiter like a tug running round two ocean liners. Monsieur Beauchamp could recommend the Barquettes Norvegienne—No? Madame did not so desire? Of course not. He frowned terrifically at the waiter, who glared ferociously at the diminutive waitress. Morbleu! What imbecile suggested Barquettes Norvegienne? Monsieur Beauchamp mentioned other dishes as an overture to the meal, waxing increasingly wrathy towards the waiter on each veto. Ah! monsieur desired Consomme Anton. The proprietor’s face beamed and his arms were outstretched towards heaven. That this gentleman should order Consomme Anton, the soup of which he alone knew the secret, and which had been named after himself! Truly, the life of a restaurateur was not without compensations. He turned on the waiter—but that worthy had darted away to execute the order.
The soup appeared. Monsieur Beauchamp stood by with the attitude of an artist watching the hanging of his first painting in the Academy.
‘You might let me see the wine list,’ said Selwyn.
Monsieur Beauchamp struck an attitude of horror. Had it come to this in the Cafe Rouge, that a patron must ask for the wine list? Brandishing his arms, he rushed from the table, almost colliding with the little waitress, flew downstairs to the very farthest table near the door, seized a wine card, and puffing generously, arrived with the trophy at the table, much as Rothschild’s messenger must have reached London with the news that the British were winning at Waterloo. Having then succeeded in making the American order a red wine when he wanted white, Monsieur Beauchamp withdrew in a state of histrionic self-satisfaction.
With a smile of relief Selwyn looked across the table at the girl. Even in the soft glow of the lamp, which made for flattery, it seemed to him that the vivacity of the morning had disappeared, and in its place was the petulance of the previous evening. Her eyes, which seemed when they were riding to have caught something of the alchemy of the skies, were steady and lighter in shade. Again he noticed the suggestion of discontent about the mouth, and the upper lip looked thin and lacking in colour.
‘It is your turn to-night to be pensive,’ she said.
‘I was thinking,’ he answered, ’that it is hardly twenty-four hours since we met, and yet I have as many impressions of you as an ordinary woman would give in six months. For instance, last night when you entered the room’——